Race, Religion, and Self-Esteem

NPR’s Ashley Westerman recently did a piece called “It’s (Sexy) Asian Men! Hallelujah,” as part of NPR’s series Code Switch: Race and Identity Remixed. I’m genetically half Asian, and have enough of the name and physical appearance to be constantly mistaken for a foreigner in my own country. The article highlighted the omnipresent but commonly overlooked fact that the majority in our country, including even other people with Asian ancestry, unthinkingly buy into Hollywood’s cartoon version of ethnic Asians as goofy, geeky, weak, evil, or foreign. TL asked me whether I had observed this subconscious stereotyping and whether it might have contributed to my self-esteem problems and desire to “prove something” about my masculinity. It did! Of course it did. I’ve always known that. I’m so grateful to NPR for finally noticing the issue.

That said, it clearly was not my only problem. Two others stand out in my mind. First, as I’ve mentioned before, I grew up in a very restrictive community, dominated by a single denomination, and a family rebelling against that community politically while buying into its values hook, line, and sinker. That started me down a path of internal conflict, then duality, then eventually a double-life, and literal lack of integrity. One part of me wanted to be open-minded and modern, while the other part of me was conservative, insecure, and threatened by modern women and modern gender relations. The latter part of me snuck around, asserting itself covertly and cowardly.

Second, I could have and should have chosen, at any point, to choose to value integrity, to learn the true definition of love, to be courageous and selfless, and to show my wife compassion. Instead, I chose to keep wallowing in self-pity.

In sum, I do think that my somewhat unusual ethnic and religious minority upbringing fueled the fire of low self-esteem and self-pity in me. But, I can’t overlook the fact that my conscious decisions lit the fire and failed to put it out until it was nearly too late.

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5 thoughts on “Race, Religion, and Self-Esteem

  1. Thank you MLC,

    I have found personal solace in the writings of the classics. For instance, Epictetus (55-135 AD) wrote “it is not what happens to you but how you react to it what matters”. Those quotes are very powerful. I feel humble when reading these words of wisdom as we all can reflect upon these and take from it what we need.

    It are often those who went through pain and who found meaning and wisdom in pain who can help others to overcome hardship. Epictetus perceived external events as outside our control, but he was “stoic” in stating that each and everyone of us are responsible for our own actions.

    It is interesting really that so many contemporary “celebrities” are placed on pedestals based on the watered-down and superficial flow of words that hit the Internet. It seems that people need their heroes, forgetting that all that really matters in life has been taught, written and said already.

    Take care!
    Elisabeth

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, these classical philosophical thoughts should be taught in kindergarten, not saved for college. There should also be a big emphasis on personal responsibility, a lesson I failed to learn until after I had already done irreparable damage to others.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. and with my husband, I think he saw a huge divide between what was taught (he knows his classics) and his reality. He was simply not ready…too immature. Blessed with a brilliant brain but no common sense.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I just listened to the “Its’s (Sexy) Asian Men!” Hallelujah!,

    …and “No” stereo typing and not doing anything about it, is not OK as it is not outside our control. We do not have to accept any of it.

    Let’s get that message out…NOW!

    Liked by 1 person

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